Mr. Smith Goes to the House of Representatives

Jimmy Stewart, as Senator Jeff Smith, reads patriotic documents on the floor of the U.S. Senate in the 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Much has been made of the new Republican majority in the House starting this session by reading aloud the Constitution.  Many articles have noted that, though it’s over 200 years old, this is the first time the Constitution has been read into the record of the House.

However, something similar has happened before in history.  Hollywood history, that is. 

In the patriotic 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as Jimmy Stewart continues his heroic filibuster to protest his framing by the corrupt politicians who betrayed him, after he reads the Declaration of Independence aloud, he then reads the Constitution.  Granted, this scene is set on the floor of the Senate, not the House, but it’s pretty close. 

This begs the question–if there are those who would criticize reading the Constitution in our Congress meetings, would they also belittle the same thing in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the most universally beloved films in American history? 

I couldn’t find a clip of this on YouTube, but here’s an excerpt from the script:

 PAGE BOY
                         Here you are, Senator, from Miss
                         Saunders.
                              (Hands Jeff the
                              Constitution)

                                     JEFFERSON
                         Oh! Thanks.
                              (The Page Boy shows
                              he still has on his
                              ranger button)
                         Well, the Constitution of the United
                         States–
                              (Reading)
                         Article one–section one.

2 comments on “Mr. Smith Goes to the House of Representatives

  1. It’s fine they read it; I don’t know, though, if reading out loud enhances actually understanding it—it seems more like posturing when done like this.

    I suppose that the expectation is, that if you’re qualified to be voted into the Congress, you’re adult enough to have studied the Constitution somewhat, so that you don’t need to hear it during a session, when some things should get done.

    But I suppose that the fact that it was the Constitution they used for filibustering might make obstructionism look more “patriotic” for people, who just read the Enquirer and watch tabloid “news.” For me the message is more like “that’s what it’s good for!”

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